The 2019 World Cup Was Awesome — But There’s Still a Lot of Work To Do

By sheplaypro

Rapinoe from the penalty spot. Lavelle making sure everyone remembered her name for scoring the last goal of the tournament – and a beauty of a goal at that. The 2019 World Cup was euphoria in so many ways, especially for those of us who had the privilege of cheering on our USWNT as they conquered the field to bring the World Cup trophy home once again. We discuss it in our recent blog – some of the killer matches, the players and teams who made history, the record roaring crowds, and the momentum for important international equality issues like the glaring pay gap between male and female players. And yet there are still issues – including the pay gap – that loom large over women’s soccer. Issues that we should not, and cannot, forget for another four years.

The Pay Gap is Still (Way Too) Big

Pay was doubled from last year but the % difference between women’s and men’s actually went up as they doubled the men’s as well.

We had trivia questions we created for a few launch events that we had back in May 2019 prepping for the World Cup. I took those trivia questions with me to vacation with my family and had them all try their best to guess the correct answers about World Cup history, USWNT history, etc. Some of the questions were about the years we’ve won titles, how many goals Carli Lloyd scored in the 2015 final, etc. But my favorite questions (and reactions to the answers) were in regards to the pay dished out by FIFA for the men’s World Cup and women’s World Cup. I had family members who could not fathom why the pay gap was so large.

What is the pay gap? The total prize money for the men’s World Cup in 2018 was $400 million. The total prize money for the women’s World Cup in 2019 was only $30 million. That is over 13x less than the men’s tournament. The winner for the 2019 women’s tournament (USA) took home $4 million.  The winner of the men’s tournament in 2018 (France) received $38 million. $38 million. That’s more than the total amount of prize money for the entire women’s tournament.

In addition to the atrocious pay gap in winnings, preparation and club compensation recompenses were disproportional as well. Each women’s team got around $800,000 for this while the men’s teams received $1.5 million.

FIFA Disasters 

It’s not uncommon to associate FIFA with treating women unfairly, but there were glaring mistakes made by the soccer powerhouse in this year’s World Cup. First, there was the ticket debacle. Not only were tickets released to fans and had groups separated throughout stadiums, there also became an issue for people needing printed tickets. The day before the first match between France and South Korea, emails went out to ticket holders to “download your e-tickets” and have them printed out to get into the stadium. That’s great… if you’re from France and have immediate access to a printer. Not every hotel in Paris has a printer and for many foreign fans coming to the tournament, this caused mass confusion and frustration.  There were lines up to two hours long at the stadium trying to sort out the situation.

Second, there was a severe lack in merchandise tables available at games. Women can’t boost their sales numbers if there is not a lot of merchandise to potentially sell. At one game attended by @thrace on Twitter, there were just two merchandise tents at the stadium in Le Havre. She said that the lines to buy shirts, scarves, hats, etc. were “at least 120 [people] deep (I stopped counting after that).” See her picture below.

Sadly, this lack of potential sales isn’t new to World Cup tournaments that women play in. People who attended the last men’s World Cup said that they were shocked to see so few merchandise tents at the 2019 World Cup. Anthony DiCicco commented on Twitter that this oversight by FIFA was the same in the 2015 Canadian tournament. He too argued that women have no chance to prove their actual revenue numbers if there is not enough retail available to sell.

Equalizer Soccer reported that a fan named Charlie attended four men’s World Cups in the past and that at those events, “merchandise is on every corner.” He added that “FIFA undervalues the women’s game” and said the two-hour wait at the stadium in Reims for merchandise and the lack of World Cup-themed goods about town represented lost potential revenue for the organization.

Sadly, tournament operations and FIFA operations once again seemed to overlook this tournament.

This was most evident in our third FIFA complaint: scheduling the Copa America and Gold Cup finals on the same day as the World Cup final. As Megan Rapinoe put it,

“It is a terrible idea to put all three on the same day in every way. There are two other finals going on but this is the World Cup final, ‘cancel everything day.’ I don’t know how that happened and I heard somewhere they just didn’t think about it, which is the problem. When the World Cup is set so far in advance it’s unbelievable. We don’t feel the same level of respect that FIFA has for the men or just in general.”

There is ZERO chance that this happens when the men’s tournament is taking place. It divides potential media coverage because news outlets are having to choose which tournament to cover versus all eyes being on a World Cup final.

VAR was Very New — Big Mistake

VAR itself was not an unfortunate thing about this World Cup – well, some may argue that it was. The issue I take with VAR in the 2019 World Cup is that it was introduced at the World Cup. As Jeff Kassouf of Equalizer Soccer put it,

“No domestic or international women’s competition used video review prior to the Women’s World Cup. So, women’s players turned up to France this month having had to prepare for the biggest tournament of their lives while adjusting on the fly to an entirely new way of officiating.

CHECK IT OUT: Equalizer Soccer is an outlet you should definitely check out after finishing this blog post 🙂

@EvansDavisSports suggested a few things FIFA could have done to help better implement VAR into the World Cup. He said they could have:

1) Tested the system in the U-20 WWC + Champions League last year

2) Partnered with USSF/Portuguese FF to test it in SheBelieves Cup + Algarve Cup

3) Held off on implementing new rules until after #FIFAWWC

Because VAR was not introduced before the World Cup, there were obvious issues that seemed to stall each and every game. Issues that players had with the system (I’m looking at you goalkeepers trying to stop penalties – my goodness!). Issues that fans and announcers had with the system. No wonder this tweet exists:

I will say that I’m thankful the US coverage had veteran referee Christina Unkel helping explain all of the new rules to viewers.

In Conclusion…

FIFA must do better. Period. Full stop. Thanks for reading.

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